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VOL. 129 | NO. 144 | Friday, July 25, 2014

Angela Copeland

When Education Falls Short

By Angela Copeland

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One of the chief complaints I hear from job seekers is that their lousy college education is to blame for their poor career success. Whether they went to the wrong school or got the wrong degree, the person wishes they could turn back time. They consider going back to school as a road to success.

Although I empathize with a college degree you may never use in your full time job (I once studied to be a computer programmer), the answer does not lie at the feet of your university. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Professions like law, medicine and engineering require years of training and specialized advanced degrees.

But, if you’re not in one of these highly specialized jobs, there’s hope! First, know that most people aren’t using their expensive degrees in the way they thought they would when they were 20. It’s not just you. Think of a friend whose career you admire and ask them what they studied. At least half of the time, you’ll be surprised.

The next step comes when you apply for jobs. Often, people read every detail of the job description. They’re very excited about a particular position until they get to the very bottom where they find a laundry list of requirements. If you know you can do a job, or at least 90 percent of it, apply. Writing a job description is often like writing a wish list for Santa. On Christmas morning, if a child gets nine out of the 10 toys they asked for, they’re happy. Most hiring managers are too.

Focus on your strengths. What have you learned to do at your current job? What classes have you taken since college? Do you have any hobbies that could be useful in your career? Highlight these skills, grow them, and sell them.

Earlier this year, I helped someone transition from an administrative position at a university to a strategic position at a corporation. He’d never worked in corporate and hadn’t studied to be a strategist. But, he had a hobby of working in the real estate market in his free time. Normally, he wouldn’t even list that on his resume, but the corporation wanted someone with real estate experience who had worked in large venues. His hobby gave him the real estate experience, while the university had exposed him to big venues. In the end, he got the job and loves his new career.

When I transitioned my own career away from computer programming and eventually to marketing, some people didn’t get it. But, I kept growing my marketing expertise on my own and talked to many different companies. It just took one person to see that I could also be a marketer, and I successfully switched my career.

At some point, you’ll transition from the education you received in college to the education you receive in life. It’s much cheaper than going back to school and, once you switch to a new industry, there’s no turning back.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” She also hosts the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes.

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